Before we dive too deep into the details of the new 2017 Ducati SuperSport, there’s a few things you need to understand about Ducati…
Two: Sportsbikes are, for the most part, not practical. That is, unless you only ride them on the track.
Sport, made light?
Ducati calls it “sport, made light” and it doesn’t mean light in terms of weight, instead it takes a more Italian interpretation, as in ‘easy to consume’.
So it has the sporting good looks of a Panigale, relatively sane performance, relatively sane comfort and great safety features. Heck, Ducati has even released press pics showing it being ridden two-up!
It’s here I’ll admit it, I’ve been very keen to ride the new SuperSport. To give full disclosure I was tempted to order one on spec when it was first announced…
Ducati calls the segment the SuperSport fits into ‘Road Sports’, which it says fits in between sportsbikes and sports-tourers. That’s a bit of Ducati marketing jargon to say this bike is a sports-tourer, but they want to convey the idea it’s special. And it is…
The Italian marque has done plenty of market research and identified 70 per cent of sales are expected to be first-time Ducati owners. These people may have dreamed about Ducati sportsbike ownership but they also have their smarts about them. So they’ll more than likely be an experienced rider who prefers realistic, manageable performance and they will typically own one bike at a time, so it obviously needs to be versatile.
That sounds like me, no wonder I was frothing at the wallet!
I’m lucky in that I get to ride lots of new bikes so I’ve always told myself that the next purchase will be made with as much thought as there is emotion, and even though my excitement got the best of me when I first heard about the SuperSport, there are still a few things holding me back.
The big questions I have before pulling the trigger are: performance, ergonomics, suspension, price and competition.
Will 113 thoroughbreds be enough? Will the ride still be a bit too sporty and uncompromising?
Will the suspension be too stiff for everyday Australian conditions?
How much am I expected to pay for the Italian experience and how much will it cost me in after-sales and service?
And then there’s competition… Ducati is comparing the SuperSport to things like KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT, Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000, BMW’s R 1200 RS and Honda VFRs which I think are all a bit more touring focussed for my liking.
For me I think it competes pretty stiffly with bikes like Triumph’s new Street Triple RS, and to a lesser extent Kawasaki’s Z900, Yamaha’s MT-09 – all have similar output and aren’t as oriented towards the touring side of things, but they’re arguably just as capable.
It’s fierce competition, so will the SuperSport be a better bike? Lots of food for thought.
Ducati has opted for the 937cc Testastretta 11-degree which was first seen on last year’s Hypermotard 939 and on paper it has similar performance. The SuperSport has a broader power band, reaching maximum torque of nearly 97 Newtons earlier than the Hyper at 6,500rpm. Ducati claims 80 per cent of torque is available from 3,000rpm, and 90 per cent above that to its 113hp peak power at 9,000 revs. 53mm throttle bodies are opened by ride-by-wire.
Ducati Safety Pack
This has been around for a few years now – it’s basically Ducati’s ABS and traction control system. The SuperSport is controlled by Bosch’s 9MP ABS system and Ducati’s traction control which has three and eight levels of adjustability respectively.
The Bosch ABS system is designed to prevent wheel lock in a whoopsie; and rear wheel lift in a really big whoopsie, it therefore shortens braking distances and enhances stability.
The three-level adjustment allows increasing levels of intervention.
Level 1 – ABS acts on the front wheel only and disengages rear wheel anti-lift. It basically means you’re on your own.
It’s not a default setting in any Riding Mode but you can associate it with one through the menu.
Level 2 – ABS acts on the rear wheel and anti-lift is engaged. It’s the minimum intervention level.
Level 3 engages maximum braking and rear wheel lift intervention.
The Bosch ABS system can also be switched off in any Riding Mode and stays off until the next time you turn the bike on.
There are three Riding Modes: Sport, Touring and Urban.
Each mode provides a different engine map and Safety Pack settings.
Sport and Touring use full power with a different throttle response according to the mode.
Urban mode is designed for poor or wet road surfaces. The engine’s power is limited to 75hp and ride-by-wire offers a progressive throttle response.
Each mode can be tailored to your preference.
Factory settings can be also be restored by setting the ‘default’ option in the menu from the left switchblock.
Standard vs S-model
Ducati Australia’s spokesperson at the launch was most uncomfortable describing the SuperSport as a ‘standard’ model, because it’s his job to say all Ducatis are special, but that’s just how it will be known to the public, so that’s what I’ll call it to make it easier to understand. The S-model, however, that is special…
There are a few subtle difference between the standard SuperSport and SuperSport S models, namely DQS (a Ducati up/down quickshifter), Öhlins suspension at each end, a seat cowl and two colour options are standard inclusions for the SuperSport S.
The S model’s forks are thicker than the Marzocchi’s featured standard (43mm vs 48mm).
Both DQS and the seat cowl are available for the standard model as an accessory.
Prices and after-sales
The Ducati SuperSport is available in Ducati Red for $17,990 RRP.
The Ducati SuperSport S is available in Ducati Red for $2,000 extra, at $19,990 RRP, and Star White Silk for $20,290 RRP.
There is a host of accessories available like panniers, carbon bits, clothing and riderwear, and there’s even a sexy set of Akrapovi? cans (for closed-circuit use…).
The sexy cans do not look like they play well with the panniers however.
Ducati recommends checking the valves every 30,000km and an annual general service, or every 15,000km.
A Ducati salesman said service costs are roughly $500 per year for a rider who travels 7,000km each year, which equates to an oil change each year and a valve check every four years.
A ride impression (Touring Mode)
By the time I slow-speed steer out of Ducati HQ in suburban Sydney, hit the crack in the pavement and accelerate out onto the street I have a fair feeling Ducati has got a lot of things right.
The riding position for one – it is spot on – comfy and slightly forward.
The ‘pegs are located underneath the seat.
The seat itself is comfortable and you sit ‘in’ the bike.
The off-set clip-ons raise the ‘bars to keep you upright, the bend in my elbows feels close to 90 degrees. There is no weight on my wrists.
Rider input throughout slow handling manoeuvres feels effortless.
The SuperSport is very confidence-inspiring in traffic.
Taking a look around the convoy, there are guys from 5’6” all the way up to the 6’4” plus behemoths like myself and one other (who’s even taller), and everyone looks comfortable.
The suspension is quality, and to Ducati’s credit it’s plush and compliant.
Hitting the bumps and travelling over poor surfaces throughout Sydney and on the twisty Old Pacific Highway (The Old Road), bumps feel practically non-existent.
I search for the worst bumps I can find to upset the bike. I fail.
After a bit over an hour’s riding we stop at Pie in the Sky to regroup, the bike is getting a bit hot under the seat.
At this point I think Ducati deserves the highest praise for making the SuperSport a practical, everyday bike.
The Old Road impression (Sports Mode)
The engine is an absolute peach. Torque is king on the road, Ducati’s dyno claims in regards to torque feel about right.
The SuperSport isn’t rocketing out of corners, but it’s certainly got plenty of punch.
The gearbox is slick and positive, clutch-less up-changes feel nice though it requires a firm action. Using a lighter touch I found a false-neutral clicking into sixth once or twice.
The steering geometries feel spot on too, it doesn’t feel like it’s ‘on rails’, but I’ve got plenty of confidence in the front-end and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres.
Brakes are on point, the Brembo M4s provide plenty of bite.
This is a genuine sports-tourer in my book.
We stop for lunch at a private circuit where we are read the ‘riot act’ by its owner, who is a fair character, though one I wouldn’t want to mess with.
Ducati staff told us we would get two sessions of three laps, but we ended up getting three.
At least half of the group hadn’t previously ridden at this facility, so more of our energy was going to be spent learning the right way ‘round five kilometres or so of 29 corners.
They wanted us to get the best experience of the bike, which we did, but they were probably a bit guilty of putting a bit too much on the agenda for one day.
The first session was on the SuperSport and like I said, it was mostly spent learning my way around. This private circuit is like Mecca for winding country-roads. There’s no kerb and gutter or run-off areas, so you really have to treat it like a winding country road.
Honestly, it was a perfect way to test the SuperSport in its intended environment. It steers effortlessly, changes direction on a knife’s edge, gets itself beyond 200km/h quickly and it stops well, although I was braking pretty conservatively compared to those with racing experience.
As this was my first time around, I got caught out going a bit too slow in a few spots and a bit too fast in others.
The Bosch ABS system helped me out on one occasion where I had to scrub off speed at lean.
When my session was over I slugged on a bottle of water to stay hydrated and took five minutes to go over the areas I was struggling with on the circuit map.
The next session was on the SuperSport S with the Öhlins suspension and DQS up/down quickshifter.
My confidence grew in the space of 500m.
By Turn 3 I push the front end slightly on the brakes, knee down, hard on the gas towards the Turn 4 hairpin, brake late, downshift one gear, no clutch, auto-blip, the rear end starts feel ‘vague’, tip in, the front end pushes again, knee on the deck and throttle to the stop on corner exit.
Holy shit, I feel like Casey Stoner!
My senses prevail and I keep my ego in check for rest of the session, though I push much faster, and only one section of track is troubling me.
I try to put my finger on it after the session ends. I was a bit ecstatic after having so much fun, all I managed to mutter was ’it steers better’…
I think the difference between the standard and S suspension may make the S handle that little bit better all round. The suspension settings felt pretty similar between both bikes so it’s too hard to say definitively. My confidence level is the biggest difference, that and the fact DQS makes it so much easier to ride fast.
I should have jumped back on the SuperSport for third session to confirm my suspicions but the way I was going, I didn’t want to bin it finding out, and I couldn’t not use DQS…
Throttle to the stop ‘till the revs hit nine grand, change up whilst pinned, dive on the chocks, tap it down and the system blips the throttle, matching the engine and gearbox’s speeds.
I decide to spend the third session at what you’d call ‘fast scratching’ speed and this is where I had the most fun.
This has answered all of my questions and it’s what I’d buy a SuperSport S for.
We’d ridden the crap roads to get here, the bike was hard to fault in performance and comfort. Now we’re on the good stuff and it’s time to enjoy ourselves.
What shows off how well the SuperSport is set up in my opinion is no-one desperately needed to make suspension changes.
Yes – front and rear suspension was a bit too soft on the circuit. It could have done with some preload too. But, for road conditions – where this bike will be ridden – it was hard to fault. If I owned the bike I would set the preload and experiment with making it a touch stiffer to find a setting which works well on good roads and isn’t too harsh for the rough stuff.
Some more observations
I kept scraping my toes at higher lean angles mainly due to being ever-so cramped under sports riding conditions at the circuit. I reckon I’d also opt for the taller seat to increase the distance, or eirther look to lower the pegs 15-25mm or remove the pillion pegs as a last resort.
I also noticed the quickshifter refused to go down consecutively once or twice from high speeds, on the SuperSport S.
It clicked and blipped from sixth to fifth, but it refused to go from fifth to fourth, eventually conceding after two or three tries and a bit of panic trying to get the bike stopped in time.
Though I’m not likely to be doing such high speeds on public roads, I’d still like to use the quickshifter a bit more day to day to see if it was me or not.
I rode back to Ducati HQ on the SuperSport through heavy traffic and the clutch started to feel heavy by the end of the ride. Maybe Ducati could look at running lighter springs to compensate for the slipper clutches ‘grip’ under acceleration.
That good, you reckon?
I disclosed my bias early in the article because I liked the look of what I saw on paper so much, but I’m a smart man and smart men have reservations.
Well Ducati’s SuperSport has unequivocally met my expectations. You can commute on this bike, you can tour on it, you can scratch and carve canyons and it won’t feel out of place on a track day. If you’ve always wanted an Italian woman in your life, but you’re too smart to ride a Panigale on the road, too young to ride a Multistrada, not cool enough to ride a Scrambler and not enough of a bastard to ride an XDiavel, buy a SuperSport.
If you could own any Ducati and only ride one this is it.
If you owned them all I reckon you’d ride this the most.